The latest musical from an Okotoks musician and playwright premieres tonight (April 28).
Maren Ord Burnham’s The Gardener tells the story of Marcus, who enters the afterlife as an angel following his untimely death. He’s assigned the job of a gardener tending the souls of the deceased and has to learn the ropes, all while he watches the love of his life move on with her own life without him.
Ord Burnham describes a balance of tragedy and hope with some lighthearted humour mixed in.
"He can't see or touch anybody and that includes the woman that he loves, Sophia. She can't hear him, she can't see him, and it's a really frustrating situation. Not to mention his angel mentor Bob, who's teaching him the angel ropes and how to be a gardener, they kind of hate each other. It's very frustrating to watch Marcus' afterlife but there's some comedy infused there, a bit of tragedy. I like to make people feel, I like to feel things, but I also like to laugh."
This will be her third stage production, and it’s been in the works for several years.
She recalls writing the first piece of music for The Gardener shortly after the conclusion of her 2020 musical, Feather Pen Fairytales.
"I remember at the end of striking for my last production, my husband was like 'Okay, you have to promise me you're gonna take a nap for like a week and just relax. Take a break, you've earned it,' and I was like "Yep, sure, I'll do that.' No, I can't, I couldn't do it! I started writing The Gardener the next day. I sat at the piano and just filled out the musical theme that day and it just kind of escalated from there."
Due to the sheer scale of her latest production, it’s going to be hosted at a larger venue, the Evan Hazel Theatre at the Seton YMCA.
Grayson Beazely, who previously worked with Ord Burnham on Feather Pen Fairytales, plays the titular gardener.
“He has been showing up with bells on. Anybody who knows Grayson as a person knows he’s a funny carefree guy but the character he plays is pretty serious and broody. What I love about Grayson is he’s able to bring some comedic elements out of his character, so he’s able to bring some brightness and lightness to Marcus that I love while also being able to portray some serious moments as well. He goes there,” says Ord Burnham
Beazely gives high praise to Ord Burnham’s original compositions.
"There are moments in rehearsal where we're listening to songs, when we're running through the music, where there are parts of the song I know are coming up and she'll cut us off because something went wrong, and I'll miss those parts. What's coming up, they're my favourite parts of the song! I love the music; I try to tell her as often as I can how much I love her music. I'm super excited to perform her music and her hard work."
Grayson's father Chris Beazely, who plays Marucs' grumpy mentor Bob, shares a similar sentiment.
"When we get into these long rehearsals and we're learning and trying to memorize lines, what would normally be a very long and arduous process trying to put this play together, we get these breaks in-between where we sing, and we hear this incredible music Maren has written. She really has a gift. The music alone is enough to move somebody. That's what I love about musicals in general and that's what I love about this musical. I listen to this music and some of it makes me cry, some of it makes me laugh, and some of it just makes me smile. That gets us through rehearsals and we're hoping that's what we convey to the audience. When they're sitting there, no matter what happens on stage, they're going to hear this music Maren has written and it's going to move people. It's amazing."
The Gardener runs from April 28-29 and May 3-6, with tickets available on Event Brite.
A portion of ticket sales is being donated to the charitable organizations Made By Momma and Step By Step Early Intervention Society.